Developing A Successful Voice Deployment

Tips to alleviate employee concern about stress, boredom.


Yesterday’s tired approaches are simply inadequate for today’s world where supply chain organizations are struggling mightily to squeeze as much profit and performance out of their operations as possible. These overwhelming expectations create many challenges—and opportunities—for warehouse leaders.

Part of this dynamic is helping workers to understand and embrace the technological changes that come into their work environment. Experience shows that companies receive the greatest payback from their technology investments when they carefully consider the impact these systems will have on the end users and plan for potential issues before a technology initiative goes live. These best practices are ideal to employ when implementing a voice system in a warehouse.

Voice is the most natural and intuitive of all data entry and order-management technologies. However, voice systems introduce complexities that organizations must carefully manage. One of the biggest challenges warehouse leaders face is anticipating and addressing employee concerns, which can range from productivity and safety to worries about stress, boredom and isolation. With careful planning, these issues can be alleviated.

Stress is a natural result of the learning process. However, as people gain proficiency with a new tool or task, stress recedes. We have found this to be the case with voice, where hundreds of thousands of warehouse and distribution center employees now use voice every day to improve work. While any new system has a learning curve, workers quickly become comfortable using voice as a work process improvement tool.

Studies have shown that human anxiety escalates when workers know they are being tracked or monitored. Sometimes employees may perceive an increased level of scrutiny that voice will enable. They should be assured that actually, performance is always measured through the warehouse management system (WMS). What is different with a voice system is there is now yet another way to identify who handled what assignments, and how long they took to complete specific tasks.

With that said, it is important to clarify that tasks are being tracked, not employee behaviors. Workers need to understand that voice does not change the essential nature of their work; it is merely a different and more effective medium for communicating the steps to get the job done.

Sometimes employees may worry that using voice will make their jobs boring or force them to become isolated from coworkers. In the experience of most of our customers, voice actually decreases boredom, while improving speed and accuracy. Most workers will feel more engaged with the job, because they can now interact with the work flow by providing input, making queries or redirecting their work.

Contrary to popular belief, using voice does not isolate employees or prevent them from speaking with one another. In fact, voice puts workers in control of their own devices. If they need to speak with someone on the floor, they can simply put the device into sleep mode with a quick voice command. When they’re ready to resume work, they can wake it up with another command. These simple voice commands make it easy for employees to communicate among themselves and then return to their assignments.

Like a dedicated personal assistant, the voice system is controlled by employees, providing them with on-time, on demand access to on-the-job information. They can start, stop and configure the system as needed to work more efficiently and at their own pace.

As your employees gain comfort and proficiency with the system, they can speed up the pace and volume of the voice dialogue. While management typically determines the language or languages in which instructions will be provided, workers can determine the language in which they want to speak back and, in many cases, whether they want to hear a male or female voice. For non-native speakers, the ability to hear instructions in their first language gives them equal opportunity to excel, regardless of their English proficiency.

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